OK. So the 10th of June, just two days short of Independence Day, shall now be remembered as the Sunday of National Mourning.
We are all allowed to feel bad for twelve hours. Sige. Let's make it eighteen. Anything beyond that is OA na. After that let's, uh, move on. Going beyond a reasonable limit is already called Major Sourgraping.
We are entitled to ngek-ngek-ngek about how we got cheated. No, it is not only HIM, but US. When it comes to the Ultimate Boxer, we do not think of him as an individual We think of him as the Nation. We give him such unlimited reverence that we even tolerate his singing and are amused by his concerts. We love him that much.
We even turned his mother into a celebrity of sorts --- whether on the dance floor or in various forms of prayerful acts.
Yes, never has the archipelago of a Republic been in a state of collective suspended animation --- almost in a zombie-like trance than when we are watching his fights. Our eyes and ears are transfixed to the internet or the tv set --- as when the Philippine National Fist (which actually sounds better as Ang Pambansang Kamao) clobbers the next opponent in line.
Every punch he renders, every knockout he achieves is a victory for the Filipino people. And his bank account.
Suddenly almost every Filipino of shape, size, color and economic status goes into an auto-nationalist mode, going completely gung ho and cheering for the legendary fighter from GenSan. There is no more doubt about it. The history of world sports has already engraved the name of Manny Pacquiao in its annals as one of the greatest boxers whoever lived.
And as far as this country is concerned, the Pacman (as he is so fondly called) has become the symbol of the country. His image might as well be put side by side with the Philippine eagle, mango, carabao and adobo to represent everything that is about being Filipino. That is all because he is ranked as one of the greatest living athletes in the world.
Yet yesterday... the seeming impossible happened: he was defeated.
No, he was not knocked out of his living daylights. He wasn't even badly bruised (for Marquez left more souvenirs than this opponent). It was because of some silly, subjective, insubstantial, unjustifiable split decision.
Unfathomable. Unimaginable. Unthinkable. And to use the term my grandmother used to expel each time something close to if not completely revolting takes place, "Que barbaridad!"
Didn't his coach say that it was impossible for Pacquiao to lose to Bradley?
Wasn't the betting not about who would win --- but rather what round he would pulverize the jaws of his opponent?
Weren't we all too cocky assuming that Pacquiao will win because he cannot lose? Let me rephrase that: It is only expected that he wins ...because we expect him to do so. It was never in our mindset that he can lose this specific fight. No way!
Even if we were sort of worried about the way he fought in that not-too-impressive performance in the ring with Marquez, the Pacman's arm was still raised when he was announced winner. We all gave a sigh of relief and said, "Oo nga naman. He cannot lose, eh."
Even if he was somewhat bugbog-sarado by Marquez, he still won --- not only because of the technicalities of boxing but because he is Manny Pacquiao. We never questioned that decision because it favored us. More so, the boxing experts had the statistics (and let me not go into that) to prove that he indeed won punch-per-punch ... and that was no example of "cooked in Macau."
Well, unfortunately, this time the invincible lost.
The last time he lost was seven years ago. Wait a minute: don't give me that Feng Shui cycle suggesting that the seven year period of triumph shall now usher in the seven year period of decline and decay. I don't even want to go there and dabble with the cosmic and the supernatural. Besides, Pacquiao will not agree since these things are not found in the Bible.
So instead, let me just figure out what is going in my mind and share what I feel are the five things I learned the day the Pacman was dethroned because of the mere split decision of a trio of mortal judges.
(1) It is not only his caliber as a boxer that matters to us: it is the very image that Manny Pacquiao emulates.
We cheer for him because he is success personified.
He is the underdog who made it big ... and, boy, do we love underdogs! Dear Manny is the King of the Underdogs. We wouldn't be Pinoys if we did not live for underdogs as we continuously and relentlessly see ourselves as the dehados who will wipe out the llamados eventually.
And, come on, let's face it. We are fascinated by Pacquiao's pinnacle of success. It is not only how good he is as a boxer but ... how rich he has become. We cheer for everything he represents and that includes his lifestyle --- and all his material acquisitions.
We even think his English is cute.
We bask in his success story because we (again) love to live vicariously, translating our fantasies and wish-fulfillment through all these heroes we love to create. He is Bernardo Carpio and Malakas thrown into one.
This is also why ...
(2) We have practically adored Pacquiao in mythical proportions --- treating him like a rock star, a movie star, a celebrity extraordinaire.
That much is obvious. And he knows that.
He knows that he has become more of an athlete: he has become a brand. And every brand must have this entire mythology surrounding a persona. He has become --- yes, folks --- an entertainer.
That is why he hosts a game show where he is called Ninong Manny.
That is why he would usually hold concerts right after his fights where all his friends gather together and turn major venues into Grand Karaoke Eyeballs. That is why he has become more than just a boxer --- like Flash Elorde, Anthony Villanueva or Onyok!
He is like Oprah. He knows the extent and power of his popularity. He knows the semblance of omnipotence that comes with wealth. He has turned himself into a brand.
Now is this persona true or not? Does it really matter?
Does that explain why he is the representative of Saranggani in the Lower House of the legislative branch of our government? Mind you, Pacquiao is not in Congress because of a party list of marginalized athletes who do not get adequate support from the government for sustainable training. He is there because he is a duly elected congressman from the South.
Kakayanin ninyo yon?
Mayweather may cackle all the insults his brain can concoct within his range of syntax ... but can he get himself elected in Congress? Of course not! The only government facility that can accommodate him is a prison cell, right?
But Manny --- he of the godlike physical prowess --- walks in the halls where men and women decide the fate of our nation.
That is why regardless of all sorts of stories thrown around about his shortcomings, his secrets ... and even his, uh, indiscretions --- it is really OK lang.
And why? Because he is a rock star far greater than any existing local showbiz personality because only the National Fist ... and his wife, Jinkee ... are worthy of being interviewed by TMZ.
But then, this leads to a fact quite painful to admit:
(3) Manny Pacquiao is not invincible. We are the ones that make him such.
Manny Pacquiao has reached new heights of athletic heroism because we made him this superhero. Attribute this to the confluence of planets --- or maybe just the right timing when media has become so accessible to everyone that information --- and yes, even myths can be created and perpetuated at the click of a mouse.
But this does not mean to diminish the degree of his achievements, mind you. For there is validity in claims that he is an exceptional boxer --- and that his stature in the world of professional sports is one that goes beyond impressive.
Yet we have given him more than that: as mentioned earlier, we do not only forgive him for his shortcomings --- we justified them. And what is worse, we expect him to deliver each time.
We often blind ourselves into seeing what we choose to look at. Perhaps our biggest sin is to mislead Mr. Pacquiao into believing his own press releases. Considering his degree of achievement, what else has he got to prove? But we will not let him rest.
After his fights --- after looking at him tired, battered, beaten --- and raising his hand with Jinkee cheering and Mommy D going into throes of ecstasy possibly because of an apparition of a heavenly representative --- we ask ourselves, "When will we make him stop?"
Will we give him the chance to rest when he is beaten to a critical pulp and left maimed like another icon of the "sport" named Muhammad Ali (who we graciously named a mall for blessing us with the Thrilla in Manila)? Will we only allow him to throw in his gloves when he has become useless? Are we that cruel in making sure that he remains a hero?
Why would he not quit undefeated? Did it have to take a fight that turned out to be a joke like this encounter with Bradley to ratify what we dread the most and refuse to believe?
Why wouldn't The Pacman stop?
Or is it all because of the money? Now this makes us think.
(4) Boxing is not only a sport. It is a business.
The statement stands to corrected. It is not only a business: it is BIG BUSINESS.
It does not only involve millions of dollars in advertising, Pay-Per-View, royalties, product placements, every conceivable contract that would and could accommodate exposure. It involves hotels, accommodations, travel, syndication --- and, best of all, betting.
As a friend pointed out, boxing is really like cockfighting. You take care of the prize roosters, you pamper them, you train them, you give them the best nutrition and physical upkeep. Then you bring them into a ring so that they can go kill each other with people taking sides through high stake betting.
Another friend blogged: boxing is the modern day version of the Roman Empire's gladiatorial fights. You bring in the best of the breed --- trained, muscled, armed. Then you let them loose so that they can go kill each other all over again. With people taking sides through high stake betting.
A lot us scream "Foul!" The results were rigged. Look at the scorecard. Examine the punch-per-punch tabulation: Manny had the advantage yet why did the split decision favor Bradley? Kasi nga ... lutong-Macao, no?!
(Another friend told me: "Watch it. If you say this game is rigged, then does this not open the possibility that the other games where the Pacman won was also rigged?"
I was so upset by what he said that I immediately "unfriended" him in Facebook.
The Pacman does not win by rigging fights! He only loses when he is set-up, no?!
Now I am catching my breath. )
Ok, Folks! Let's get real here.
Boxing is an interesting "sport" --- but it is basically about the money involved. It is the money earned by the promoter. It is the money gathered from all forms of media telecast --- whether in syndication, special feeds, cable exclusives. It is the money earned by sponsors in terms of the media space they purchased. It is the money earned by the boxers themselves as they do not only get paid for beating their opponents to all available synonyms of the word pulp but also a cut in all telecast profits.
Again, it is all about the money! When money is involved ... dared we even think that the seemingly implausible can be made so simple?
Are we being cynical into thinking that business plans can be merciless but whoever said that the insatiable pursuit for profit has to be human or even humane in its considerations? The question of plausibility or integrity is not a necessity: it is about viability and profitability. Period.
At this point, read my lips: R-E-M-A-T-C-H.
It's in the contract.
So this leads me to an even greater learning about what happened on the tenth of June:
(5) There are other Filipino athletes who deserve as much attention and recognition and who go through hell and high water in order to fight their battles carrying the name of our country. They deserve our attention, dedication, care and support as much as if not even more than those who can live comfortably for the next sixteen reincarnations.
Funny ... but nobody really gave much of a hoot to the Philippine Dragonboat team.
Everyone has a question or two about the Azkals or the Volcanoes ... to the point of even saying that they are just glamour boys who pose in their underwear and cause havoc in EDSA.
The Younghusbands are known as endorsers --- but their greater contribution is not that they are pretty boys or that the younger is the object of affection of Angel Locsin. No, they ---together with the rest of the Azkals --- finally brought soccer to the attention of Filipinos. Finally, we have a sport that we can actual excel because it is not height-dependent and that we possess the strength and skills to be masters of the field.
The same goes for the Volcanoes. Bringing the sport of rugby to our country is not only refreshing but provides our young people with other alternatives in their pursuit for athletic excellence.
Yeah, they are all good looking lads --- sometimes looked down upon as half-breeds and questioned about their nationality.
Uh, people of the Philippines: we were all announcing to the world that Jessica Sanchez was the Pinoy Pride whereas we all know that she was born in Chula Vista and that she is an American citizen by birthright. Duh! But we love her because she is a good singer --- and she has Filipino blood. And that was why she sang Star Spangled Banner for Team Bradley.
So why do we suddenly discriminate against half-breeds who come over and give new light and life to Philippine sports?
And what about all the athletes we are sending to the Summer Olympics? Do we even know their names? Do we even exert effort to think about the kind of training they received, the kind of benefits they are rewarded for --- uh, representing our country in the greatest showdown of the world's best?
Do we realize how these people have to literally beg for money for their training? Do we also sense that we can be so much better in so many more sports if we gave these athletes even one fourth of the importance we invest in those we exclusively choose to mythologize?
What about all the other Filipino athletes who have brought equal honor to our country? What about racer Marlon Stockinger? What about the other star athletes who just happen to be in sports that are not as accessible to the general public? What about all these sports people who are into their game ... and not into cameras, magazine spreads about their material acquisitions --- or are known not only for their endorsements?
Yes, what about them?
While Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, my next door neighbor and Mang Tony, my ever faithful tubero who thinks he can do a better job than Roach --- lament the perfidy of the results of yesterday's fight, we allow ourselves to wallow in a few more hours of mourning.
Then we either move on or wake up.
We move on and get our adrenaline boiling for the November rematch.
Or we wake up to certain inevitable, undeniable and bare facts about the world of professional boxing --- and why what transpires behind the ring is as if not more important as the battle that mesmerizes us to create our Superhero.